Die Tödliche Doris: Total Gesamtkunstwerk

Sometime ago I made a faux-pas when I claimed that Der Plan was Germanys best (and only) experimental-, dada-, exotica-, art-pop-band.
How could I forget the incredible and deadly Die Tödliche Doris ("The deadly Doris")?

Well, Doris was a little bit more art and a teensy bit less pop! Or were they? But after all they were one of the most outrageous groups that emerged from the fertile underground scene of the late seventies.

Die Tödliche Doris (which could be a wordplay on "lethal dose") was formed by art students Wolfgang Müller and Nikolaus Untermöhlen with various female members in the exploding art/underground scene of Berlin in 1980.

Due to the bizarre situation of the insular West-Berlin the city´s art scene was thriving thanks to a fairly large amount of money and freedom that was supplied by the Senate. Living a happy life of filth, squalor and fatalism was quite the thing to do back then. (See picture on right!)

Calling themselves "Geniale Dilletanten" (complete with typo) Doris was always on the edge of performing music, film, literature and paintings which could easily be seen as parody of the whole art circus. But they did it with such a twisted sense of humour and outragenousness that they were instantly taken serious by the institutions they might have been mocking.

Museums from Berlin to Amsterdam via Paris, New York and Tokyo were (and still are) exhibiting their various films and paintings.

The first thing I heard from Doris was "Wie still es im Wald ist" (How quiet the forest), which is actually an unlistenable squealing and scratching with Müller reciting his lyrics as if he is losing his sanity.

It is one of those moments where you sit there and the letters P R E T E N T I O U S are blinking before you like a disco. But at the same moment I found myself highly entertained, a little bit disturbed and I never forgot it.

Lets take a look at this little thing called "Debut". Don´t worry if you can´t understand the lyrics (its a weird story about a troubled kid who tries to go into the army after he was molested, gets arrested at work for stealing, is then thrown into prison, goes on hungerstrike and finally gets his debut on TV after he is released.) Who still insists that Germans have no sense of humour?

With their recordings and concerts Doris were constantly re-evaluating themselves and they came up with lots of great ideas that questioned all concepts of originality, authenticity, reality and convention. The art of the artificial and vice versa.

Their 1984 album "Our debut" (which it was not) mocked the will of their fellow underground artists to "make it big". Two years later they released "sechs" (six) which was the conceptual antithesis of the former album. Both records were produced at the same time and they were actually cut to form an "invisible" album which would materialize as soon as the listener would play both records at the exact same time. (A similar idea was much later done by belgian band/project Locust). Later, Doris performed the invisible album for deaf people with the help of mimes.

Even Doris´ live performances were under constant attack of their concept. They performed a track only once. During their next concerts Doris would mime to the recording. But this time they recorded the sound and the audience reaction and would use this tape in their next performance and so on. This process would lead to a multi layered sound in which the actual song morphed into a mushy noise.

I still remember discussing their "Chöre & Soli" release with a good friend of mine. It was a limited box set, containing 8 coloured mini records (20 seconds playing timeI) and a playback device. These small plastic discs were once used in talking puppets.
We instantly knew that this artefact would once become an expensive collectors item (which it is today).

In 1987 Doris ceased to exist (of course they didn´t) but they are still exhibiting and releasing oddities such as "Fallersleben", an "unrecorded" recording of a 1981 live concert that was alledgedly pulled from the ether in 2004. In fact it is a shitty tape of an old performance which they cleverly re-packaged with this totally hilarious campaign.

Sadly Nikolaus Untermöhlen died in 1996 and Wolfgang Müller is now partly living in Iceland where he writes book about elves!

Enjoy "Kavalliere 1", a "music video" that predates M-Tv and is more entertaining than "Last year in Marienbad".

For lots of info in five languages visit Doris.

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